Is teleportation just another version of "my grandfather's axe"?

I don’t believe this is necessarily a “great” topic, but it’s definitely a debate.

When asked if I would ever allow myself to be teleported, a la Star Trek, I find myself very much on the Dr. McCoy side of the equation. Teleportation, as described in that universe, would not move me instantaneously from Point A to Point B. It would utterly disintegrate me at Point A and create an exact copy of me at Point B. My consciousness would be vaporized and a new entity with my memories and identity would begin.

Except . . .

Doesn’t that happen anyways, just over a longer period of time? With the exception of neurons, every cell in the human body is replaced eventually. Some on a scale of hours or days, others on a scale of years. And even for those neurons, isn’t there an exchange and renewal of molecules and atoms during the lifespan of the cell? At the end of 70 years or more, is there much of a chance that any of the atoms which comprise the cell are the same atoms absorbed and donated by the mother during pregnancy?

So, if I can call the heirloom leaning against my fireplace hearth my grandfather’s axe, even though the handle has been replaced five times and the head has been replaced three times since he bought it, can I then also call myself the same person I was when I was born? And if I chose to be teleported, am I the same person after the teleportation that I was before, even if all my atoms and molecules have been swapped out for fresh ones?

The paradox of my grandfather’s axe is also called The Ship of Theseus.

That’s my view; we are patterns of information. And to take it further; as far as I’m concerned a perfect copy of me created without destroying the original would be me, at least until we began to diverge. Then, there would be two separate versions of me, neither more valid than the other.

I recall an old science fiction short story, perhaps from William Tenn, regarding a court case where a man has been transported. The judge ruled that the man coming out of the transporter was, in the eyes of the law, not the same man who entered the device at the other end, but a new born baby recently created. I think the original man was considered dead because of the deconstruction of his body.
We have the influence of the ‘unique individual’ throughout our culture. This could make for an interesting transition. ‘The Prestige’ had an interesting slant on the concept of replication. Would you and your other be friends or enemies?

So, would you use a transporter? What if you saw the perfect copy appear before you were destroyed?

I’m betting that some of the calcium is the same. Also iron in the marrow.

Somebody has to link to it.

Basically it would seem it’s murder or suicide each time, in a way.

If you’ve seen The Prestige it hinges upon a steampunk prototype of teleportation. I won’t spoil the ending(s) but I’ll say this is definitely addressed.

You can call yourself anything you want - and probably would. But the fact would remain that you would have been deconstructed and your life ended. Hope it didn’t hurt!

If transporters were developed I’m sure every possible step would be taken to ensure that this never occured, because it would destroy the illusion of continuity that would allow people to ignore that the transporter is dematerializing and literally killing living people.

according to this article,

I seem to recall a story, show, movie or something where somebody was getting teleported… Only what they did not say was what happened to the “original” copy. He got into the machine, and nothing seemed to happen. When he got out, he was told “everything went smoothly. Your new body is now at your new location. It’s now time to go into that little room and kill yourself with this pill.” He was understandably a little miffed.

I’m sure someone can remember the name of this.

That’s very interesting, perhaps that is where the soul resides. Do we know when the cerebral cortex develops in a fetus,… never mind,…

funny how you can hijack almost any thread into a thread on abortion, Israel, libertarianism or Obama (used to be Bush) eventually.

I had not seen that clip before. Very funny. :smiley:

And yes, I have seen The Prestige. I need to see it again.

I think what I’m getting at is that all of us go through an extended type of grandfather’s axe/ship of Theseus/teleportation through the course of our lives. If replacing atoms, molecules, and cells at a slow but constant rate doesn’t interrupt the illusion of our identity, then why would a wholesale, instantaneous replacement?

Or, if TruCelt is correct, and at least some of the calcium and iron linger, do these hold the key to our continuous stream of existence? If so, how many atoms must remain for me to remain me and not a copy?

I think the key lies in the fact that during teleportation, there is some interval of time where the original no longer exists, and the copy has not been finished. Also, if teleportation were possible, it implies that with a powerful enough energy source, you could simply copy yourself, instead of destroying the original (or is that a violation of quantum physics?).

I’m still trying to bend my head around this.

The great thing about such a teleporter would be that it would definitively prove that souls didn’t exist.

Especially if you let the original and copy coexist together for a while.

The illusion of continouity is just that - an illusion. Think about it - most things disappear and reappear from your life all the time. Have you ever been in a room with a person, and they left, and came back? Did you treat them as a fresh new person in your life? No, because we have every reason to define things as having sustained existence. Apparently there’s a distinct point when babies figure this out.

The teleporter example would basically be analagous to somebody substituting your usual coffee with folger’s crystals - you wouldn’t be able to believe it wasn’t butter. (Somebody stop me.) It would be a texas switch - and everybody would fall for it, including yourself. But technically, you would be a new and distinct person with a discontinuity of existence. A little more distinctly than when we take twenty years to swap all the parts out.

I’d use it; but if my “copy” appeared before "“I” was destroyed, it wouldn’t be a perfect copy anymore; if I keep existing after the copying, we’ve diverged and are now separate entities.

It doesn’t much matter for the argument, since the cells are constantly exchanging new molecules for old. The same principle as cell replacement on a smaller scale.

No. Bone is constantly being destroyed and replaced; it doesn’t just sit there for decades. And iron is replaced even faster. It’s excreted or bled away.

Would the failure of this kind of teleportation prove that souls do exist (lets say the newly constructed body acts like the kid from pet cemetary).

BTW, why can’t they use stargate teleportation instead of transporter technology? Sure you are a little colder and you get motion sickness but…

Unfortunately, despite using a wormhole, Stargate uses the bad kind of instantaneous transportation. It creates a portal between two distant points, then says “Ah, fuck it!” and demolecularises you anyway.

What about a clone then? If I cloned you would you allow me to kill Begbert Mk. I on the understanding that the clone is you?

That sounds sort of like James Patrick Kelly’s “Think Like a Dinosaur” (where the protagonist is the person in charge of administering the pill, more or less).

The Way Station by Clifford Simak, perhaps?

Never seen that movie, so I don’t know what you mean. If the copy behaved aberrently (like, say, falling over dead), it would certainly prove that there was something wrong with the copying process, but it wouldn’t necessarily nail the problem down to souls without further information. (Not to mention nobody knows what a soul actually is - if we’re being remote-controlled by radio waves by aliens from the planet Zatar, would that count?)

When you put it that way, of course not - because from my perspective the clone would fail a critical requirment for being me - I’m right here. The clone is over there. No matter how identical two things appear, if they’re in different places, then they’re different things.

So - presuming you didn’t kill me before I noticed, my experience of being ‘transported’ would be “Okay, here I go, onto the pad, and he’s pushing the button… hey, it didn’t work! I’m still here! But, another me appeared across the room - a different me! What the hell? And hey, what are you doing, don’t point that thing at me, what are you doing, stop that!-” splorch

On the other hand, here’s the experience of the me that’s just been copied to the other side of the room: “Okay, here I go, onto the pad, and he’s pushing the button - whoa! Everything’s changed! I’ve been transported across the room - awesome! And - hey wait a minute, there’s another me standing across the room where I just came from - a different me! What the hell? Does this mean I’m just a copy? And hey, what are they doing, pointing that thing at other-me? Don’t do that, stop that! -oh my god, they just killed that guy! Who looked just like me! Ohhh crap that’s creepy, get me out of here!”

Yeah. You’d best be sure that you’ve blitzed the original before you assemble the copy, for marketing reasons alone.

Though I will add, with a good marketing campaign, where you completely downplay the copy/kill aspect and focus on the demonstrable result -person disappears from here, person appears there, and all evidence including his own words says he’s the same guy- if you did that then I would most likely get used to the idea and eventually become willing to step on the pad. But glitches producing spare copies (and the ones that just disappear people outright, and the ones that send a person’s legs to a separate planet) should always be swept under the rug as quickly as possible.